Sugar market volatile due to 'low output, import'
The country's sugar market has become volatile, as prices of the essential shot up to Tk 100-120 a kg, rising Tk 10-20 a kg in only four days, amid decline in refineries' output and dealers' supply, said grocers.
Refiners said they had to cut production by two-thirds of the previous level amid massive drop in gas supply to their units.
Many of the city groceries failed to source sugar, and so, went out of stock on Thursday and Friday.
Packet sugar became rare in the capital, as many dealers and big grocers were selling it as loose sugar amid surge in prices to above Tk 100 a kg. Some grocers were found selling packet sugar even at Tk 120 a kg.
The volatility in sugar market began just one and a half weeks after the government reviewed its price at Tk 90-95 a kg.
Faridul Hasan, a resident of Rayer Bazar in the city, told the FE that he could not find sugar in his neighbouring groceries on Thursday night.
"Later, I went to a distant grocery, where packet sugar was selling at Tk 110 a kg, which I sourced at Tk 95 a kg a few days back."
"Prices of all essentials have been rising gradually for the last one year, making people's life pathetic. My income remains almost static at Tk 25,000 a month," said Mr Hasan, who works as an office assistant in a commercial apartment.
Belal Hossain, a West Dhanmondi-based grocer, said prices of sugar witnessed Tk 250-260 a maund (37.32 kg) hike in Moulvibazar wholesale market just in four days. So, its wholesale price now surpassed Tk 98 a kg, which discouraged many grocers to buy the essential.
"The government has fixed the maximum price of sugar at Tk 95 a kg. Who would take the risk of being fined by the government agencies concerned for selling the item at above the fixed rate?"
"I am supplying sugar to my regular customers from some old stocks, purchased two weeks back," he added.
Meanwhile, City Group Director Biswajit Saha told the FE that the recent problem started due to gas supply crunch in the refining units.
"We earlier got 150 PSI (pressure per square inch) gas, and it has dropped to 32 PSI now, through which a plant cannot be operated."
The company was able to supply 700-800 tonnes of sugar a day to the dealers at government fixed rate against its normal supply of 3,000 tonnes, he added.
Official of another refinery said import of sugar declined by nearly 40 per cent in last five months amid the USD price crisis.
Though the government fixed USD rate at Tk 99 each for importers, they could hardly get greenback at rates below Tk 108, he said.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Vice President S M Nazer Hossain said the Ministry of Commerce should take immediate actions to bring normalcy in the market.
Unscrupulous refiners, dealers and other big market players made millions of taka extra profit in the last few days by raising sugar prices at their wish.
He also said the existing high import duty should be lifted from the essential, whose supply in the country almost entirely depends on import.
"Smooth gas supply to the refineries should be ensured by taking necessary measures immediately to maintain normal supply chain," he added.
According to the commerce and industries ministries, the country has demand for some 2.2 million tonnes of sugar per year, of which it produced only 28,000 tonnes in last financial year, 2021-22. Leading refiners import 2.0-2.4 million tonnes of sugar annually.